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Web Letter

While the article makes several good points, there are quite a few things in the article that do not make sense. Let me point them out below.

The article says:

Those of us who served on a United Food and Commercial Workers commission that studied Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids at Swift meatpacking plants across the country learned that the law has had disastrous effects on all workers. Instead of reinforcing or tweaking employer sanctions, we would be much better off if we ended them.

However, it then gives no evidence of what are the "disastrous effects" on "all workers." It says:

Raids and workplace enforcement have left severe emotional scars on families.

Presumably, the scars have been left on the families of the undocumented. It is not clear why "raids and workplace enforcement" would leave scars on "all workers," and no explanation is given in the article.

Workers were mocked.

If workers were mocked, then surely not mocking workers will rectify that? It seems that this is a clear case for "tweaking" enforcement (ensuring that enforcers do not "mock"workers)--yet the authors of the article say that "tweaking" will not work. Why?

Children were separated from their parents and left without word at schools or daycare.

Is this going to be a convincing argument that will change the minds of US citizens? When US citizens get arrested and subsequently jailed or imprisoned, that also separates children from their parents and has pretty devastating consequences. The US, in fact, has the highest incarceration rates in the world. If the plight of the US-citizen incarcerated does not garner much sympathy from the voting public, can we expect that the plight of the undocumented will? It does not seem likely.

Increased enforcement has poisoned communities, spawning scores of state and local anti-immigrant laws and ordinances that target workers and their families.

Te authors seem to be saying here that the problem with enforcement at the federal level is that... it leads to more stringent enforcement at the state and local levels? If anything, that strengthens, not weakens, the argument of those who would like to see more enforcement. Also, the pro-enforcement crowd might respond to this by saying that if a substantial number of the undocumented can be harassed into leaving (by making their lives miserable), then the "poisoning" of the communities would actually decline, as there would be fewer undocumented in the communities.

Employer sanctions have failed to reduce undocumented migration because NAFTA and globalization create huge migration pressure.

This is true. But...

To reduce the pressure that causes undocumented migration, we need to change our trade and economic policies so they don't produce poverty in countries like Mexico.

The fallacy here is to suggest, as the authors do, that US trade and economic policies are the only reason for "poverty in countries like Mexico" and that, therefore, if only "US trade and economic policies" were modified, poverty would disappear and undocumented immigration would decline. However, "US trade and economic policies" are only one among many factors causing poverty in these countries. Modifying "US trade and economic policies" would help, but it would not by any means be a magic bullet that would eliminate the incentive for undocumented immigration, because the many other causes of poverty would still be extant.

Workplace enforcement also increases discrimination. Four years after sanctions began, the Government Accountability Office reported that 346,000 US employers applied immigration-verification requirements only to job applicants with a "foreign" accent or appearance.

How does immigration-verification count as "discrimination"?

Another 430,000 only hired US-born applicants.

This is certainly discrimination against foreign-born legal US citizens or foreign-born work permit holders. But is the solution to this discrimination the abandonment of enforcement altogether, as the authors seem to suggest? Or is the solution prosecution (by civil liberties groups and others) of those employers who indulge in this discrimination?

I am not a US citizen myself. (I am documented, however). I do want to see the undocumented granted documents. But I do not see in the above arguments anything much that could change the hearts and minds of low-wage US workers and make them favorable to legalization of the undocumented.

The only line of reasoning that seems to make sense, I think, is the argument that immigrant workers, especially from Latin American countries, are usually more radical and politicized than US workers, and are often a bridge to relatively more militant union movements in their own countries. Thus, legalizing the undocumented will help to push the labor movement in the USA in a healthy leftward direction as the newly legalized will be able to be more visible and participative in the US labor movement.

However, given that many US workers are themselves turning away from labor unions, it is not at all clear to me that revitalization of the labor movement is going to be an attractive enough objective for US workers to support legalization of the undocumented. It seems to me likely that US workers would need to become much more politically sophisticated, more radicalized, and, to use an old-fashioned but very relevant phrase, more "class- conscious," before this argument could begin to register with any potency.

So, I regret to say that I am much more pessimistic than the authors of the article, about the situation.

Einty Hexhorezh

Ann Arbor, MI

May 7 2009 - 5:03pm

Web Letter

I think you have to look at the effects of NAFTA and "free trade" agreements on America citizens and migrant workers! Many jobs that were formerly done by American citizens and migrant labor have been shipped to points South and overseas. Smithfield Farms, mentioned in this article, have at least two locations in Mexico, which may be sources of the "swine flu" pandemic. They were also a health risk in this country.

I was looking at Ford cars recently, and some of the Focus line came from Mexico. They have a large plant down there.

While I don't know their legal status, Fleetwood used to employ Mexican-Americans or Mexicans in Rialto, California making travel trailers, and payed $20 an hour. They took the plant to Mexicali, Mexico, where they paid Mexican workers $3 an hour. A California agribusiness that use to pay migrants $9 an hr. and couldn't "find" enough labor in America took his operation to Mexico, where, "poor man," he has to pay them $11 a day.

The basic point here people is that globalization turns all workers into wage slaves with no protection from any country. This is the real world!

Pervis James Casey

Riverside, CA

May 1 2009 - 3:41pm

Web Letter

"To reduce the pressure that causes undocumented migration, we need to change our trade and economic policies so they don't produce poverty in countries like Mexico." No amount of subsidies, loans, emergency assistance to Mexico, whether to fight its war against corruption or the cartels, or assist with earthquakes that devastate the substandard housing there, or continue to be Mexico's "safety valve," will change the wounds Mexico chronically inflicts on itself. Corruption arrived with the Spanish conquistadores. The corrupt, cartel-connected PRI party ran Mexico for seventy years--where was the populist rebellion against those thieves? Pemex, which should be a boon to Mexico is, instead a national organ pumping profits into the treasury--and who knows where it goes from there? Mexico has failed to invest in offshore drilling, as Petrobras (Brazil) has) and is way behind the production curve.

The US didn't "cause" Mexico's poverty. Mexico's own choices and actions did. And we pay an extraordinary price for the myth that Mexico is America's victim--just ask any of the states victimized by the huge costs associated with illegal immigrants--and their families. Pregnancy is also a choice. If a couple can't afford to raise one child without governtment assistance, why have five? Oh, right, it's free here.

Tara Murphy

Washington, DC

May 1 2009 - 2:11pm

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